I don’t usually jump into a road trip of unknown duration and a couple thousand miles with a woman I barely know. Well, never until last summer. Since my wife died, that’s how life has gone. Gradually, over a span of ten years, my old life dwindled and shrank, until its desiccated husk blew away, gone with the flesh and blood woman I loved and cared for while dementia slowly overcame her, whose ashes now sit on a shelf overlooking the dining room.
It was time for me to start over. This time, I vowed, will be different. Safe? Yes. Sane? Maybe not. Wait a minute. I’m in my seventies. Gotta be careful, don’t I? I was careful before. It’s gone. How much time is left? No one really knows, but the odds are, not many years.
So there I was, headed west on Interstate 80 in my 25-year-old camper van, with my dog Heidi curled up in the passenger seat beside me. Pennsylvania, Ohio. We spent the night in a rest area parked next to a couple of mammoth RVs, covering the windows to block out the lights, lulled to sleep by the unceasing whine of trucks along the Ohio Turnpike.
Somewhere around Cleveland we bailed out of the four-lane and turned west on an old U. S. highway past cornfields, small towns, and farms surrounded by empty fields stretching to the horizon. Mid-afternoon we stopped at the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Library and Museum in Fremont. In the warm sun a group of elderly Ohioans knocked croquet balls across a sprawling green next to the old Hayes family mansion. I skipped the museum, and after a few minutes of wandering to shoot photos, we drove on.